CO2 emissions have risen: more flights and no more compensation

| Rense Kuipers

The UT's CO2 emissions rose from 6.6 kilotons in 2022 to 8.1 kilotons last year, according to the recently published CO2 footprint report. This shift is mainly due to the fact that gas consumption is not compensated for by means of certificates. At the same time, the number of business trips rose sharply last year.

Photo by: Arjan Reef

Actually, the UT would record a slightly smaller CO2 footprint than in 2022. That year, the actual consumption was 8.3 kilotons of CO2 – 200 tons more than the 8.1 kilotons of 2023. But the UT compensated  for its own gas emissions in 2022 by purchasing so-called Voluntary Emission Reduction certificates, thus arriving at 6.6 kilotons – albeit 'on paper'.

The UT stopped doing that in 2023. 'Media reports raised doubts about the reliability of the methodology, which calculates the CO2 emissions to be included from offsetting projects such as tree planting. As a result, the steering committee of the SEE programme advised to look at alternatives,' says environmental and sustainability policy officer Brechje Maréchal. 'That's what we're working on now. Moreover, we prefer to focus on reducing our consumption rather than compensating for it.'

As a result, the university seems to have started emitting more, but the actual energy consumption decreased by 9 percent, of which gas consumption by 22 percent, according to the CO2 footprint report drawn up by the SEE programme and UT start-up Realised.

More emissions from flights

While energy consumption decreased, travel increased. Partly due to emissions as a result of medium length air travel, emissions increased to more than 3 kilotons of CO2. The total number of flights was even 51 percent higher than in pre-corona year 2019. This means that the UT community's flight behaviour is responsible for 37 percent of the total emissions recorded in 2023.

It is also striking that emissions from short-haul flights have risen, despite the train zone map introduced in 2022  – precisely intended to encourage UT employees to take the train up to distances of 800 kilometres from Enschede.

'In 2022, it wasn’t possible to travel to all countries in the first few months. In addition, from 2023 onwards, many gatherings were organised again that could not take place previously due to the corona crisis. It's a kind of catching up', Maréchal suspects.

The SEE programme is currently working on a plan for business travel, she says. 'In line with the ideas that were discussed in 2022, but which have been put on hold ever since. It's not necessarily that travel is all bad; It can be very useful for forging coalitions and securing research funding. What we want to achieve is that we raise awareness. And especially on long journeys you could combine multiple appointments at the same destination or meetings could be attended online.'

Decline over several years

Over the last five years, the UT's CO2 emissions fell sharply – from more than 26 kilotons of CO2 in 2019 to the aforementioned 8.1 kilotons last year. The main factor is a turnaround in 2022; since then, the UT has only purchased green electricity, with certificates of origin for wind and solar energy. As a result, electricity emissions went to zero – on paper, that is. However, actual electricity consumption has not changed particularly much in recent years; That went from 22,248 megawatt hours in 2019 to 22,631 megawatt hours in 2023, respectively – an increase of 1.7 percent.

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